Fantasy Basketball Primer: Week 1
The NBA season gets underway on Tuesday night with three high-interest games that should have fans more than engrossed in the competitions themselves.
For fantasy owners, however, this is the start of the “other” basketball season, as well, and the following is a primer to make sure those owners are fully prepared for their first week’s worth of games.
In head-to-head leagues, it’s important to get the most out of your roster spots and potentially limited waiver pickups, so here’s a look at which teams play the most games in the upcoming shortened week.
Four Games: L.A. Lakers, Miami HEAT, Orlando Magic.
Three Games: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, L.A. Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards.
Two Games: Denver Nuggets.
Gerald Wallace, Boston Celtics – After sporting a mysterious walking boot in practice late last week, Wallace practiced Monday and looks as though he’ll be good to go for Boston’s first game on Wednesday evening.
Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets – After dealing with back issues for a few weeks, Kirilenko doesn’t appear to have a great shot at playing in the Nets’ first game or two. As of Tuesday he was on the team’s list of inactives, but whether he plays or not, it would be smarter to go with a healthier option for the first couple of games.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats – Jefferson really seems to think he’ll be good to go for the season opener against Houston, but the team has him listed as questionable, essentially making him a game-time decision for now. Assuming he plays (and it looks like he will), the top-15 fantasy selection is a must-start.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls – He wouldn’t miss opening night against the Miami HEAT for anything, but a perennially injured big man who’s coming into the year with nagging issues is bound to miss some time at some point. He’ll play Game 1, but beyond that, Noah is a risk.
Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers – While Bynum hasn’t been cleared for full-contact practices or games just yet, there is a sense around the team that he’s getting close. He’s been doing five-on-five drills for over a week, so while currently listed as inactive for Wednesday, Bynum shouldn’t be out too much longer. If you’ve got him, it’s probably safer to ramp up your excitement for Week 2 at the earliest.
Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey, Detroit Pistons – We know Jennings is going to miss about four games to deal with his ill-timed dental issues, but Stuckey now has a broken thumb, which held him out of Monday’s practice. He may not play in the opener, either, and if that happens, Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups get boosts until one or both of those players are back.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors – Barnes is still missing practices with that left foot injury, which doesn’t make the picture sound particularly rosy for his season debut on Wednesday. Don’t plan on him being active for that home game against the Lakers. Andre Iguodala owners, meanwhile, could be in for some extra minutes this week.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers – Not that Granger looked all that hot in the preseason anyway, but he’ll reportedly miss 4-6 weeks to heal up his injured calf muscle. Granger thinks he’ll be back in closer to three weeks, but either way, this is plenty reason to make sure Lance Stephenson isn’t still on the waiver heap in your league.
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks – The good news is that Ilyasova is practicing again, but the bad news is that he puts himself at only “80 percent” healthy. If he doesn’t start the opening game, which is a possibility, move John Henson up on your list of potential waiver wire pickups.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors – With Jose Calderon finally out of town, Lowry lovers felt confident drafting the all-around fantasy stud this year, only to have him immediately go and break his finger. The good news, though, is that he’s got the thing splinted up and is going to play through the healing process. Lowry is a monster when he’s healthy, so this is good news for his owners.
Early Waiver Pickups:
Vitor Faverani, Boston Celtics – It’s really looking like Faverani will be the team’s starting center to start the season, which means good things for the rookie big man. He blocked 6 shots in a game the other night and really is the only true center on the roster. He’s worth consideration if you’re in need of depth at center.
Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics – While the Celtics have really spread around the minutes in the preseason to have a good look at what, exactly, they’ve got in this completely revamped roster, Sullinger still looks like the team’s best offensive big man. He hasn’t shot it well in the preseason, but he’s good for reasonable field goal percentage, points, and rebounds.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls – Joakim Noah is absolutely going to miss time. It’s more certain than death and taxes, and Gibson has proven to be a double-double machine in instances when either Noah or Carlos Boozer is injured. If Noah misses any extended time with that injured groin, Gibson is a terrific option for all the important big man categories.
J.J. Hickson, Denver Nuggets – It’s likely that Denver’s injury woes this preseason were all minor enough not to be concerned with them for the regular season, but Hickson is a great play if Kenneth Faried misses any time this week. You already know that he’s one of the league’s best in terms of field goal percentage, but he’ll score and rebound, too. Plus, on the off chance that Faried ends up traded, Hickson would be the next in line for those minutes. Keep in mind that Denver only plays two games this week, but long-term, Hickson is someone to keep an eye on.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers – The bad news for Granger is good news for Lance Stephenson, who should now be the team’s starting shooting guard for at least the next few weeks. Stephenson was great down the stretch last season in that role, so if he’s still available in your league, consider taking a flier.
Nick Young, L.A. Lakers – He’s not going to help your field goal percentage, but for as long as Kobe Bryant is out, Young is a cheap source of points and three-pointers, even chipping in 0.9 steals per preseason game and taking decent care of the ball.
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks – With or without Ilyasova in the lineup, Henson is an intriguing player. The star of Summer League, Henson could end up being a legitimate contributor in field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks before this season is through. If Ilyasova misses a few games, though, Henson could be a great Week 1 add.
James Anderson, Philadelphia 76ers – Philly doesn’t have any other shooting guards on the roster, so Anderson is it for them. He shot just under 50% from deep, scored almost 14 points per game, and swiped away 1.1 steals per game in the preseason, all while shooting .538 from the field. The opportunity is there, and so far, the numbers have been, too.
Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns – With Marcin Gortat off to Washington, Plumlee is the team’s new starting center, so one can expect respectable rebound and shot-blocking numbers from this young man moving forward.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz – Burks was already someone generating some sleeper buzz before Trey Burke went down, but he’ll now be expected to shoulder an even larger portion of the team’s backcourt offensive load. His percentages in the preseason were atrocious (.366 FG%, .231 3PT%), but he’s going to see a ton of playing time and should give some solid numbers in regards to points and steals.
Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards – Ariza is the kind of player that can provide some pretty nice all-around numbers from the small forward spot, but he ended the preseason looking just about as hot as anybody in the league. In his final game he hit 5-of-7 threes, while scoring 19 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and swiping away 4 steals. Those aren’t sustainable numbers, but it was encouraging that Ariza ended the preseason on so high a note.
Good luck to all you fantasy hoopsters as you delve into your first week of play. HOOPSWORLD has a great fantasy team offering up loads of great coverage all season long, so check back every week for more updates and tips. In the meantime, go out there and get your first win!